Facebook Messenger announced that starting today, its intelligent assistant M will be able to interpret words in bilingual conversations. M Suggestions makes recommendations based on the words people use in conversations. M Suggestions will begin with English to Spanish and Spanish to English translations, starting with Marketplace conversations in the United States and coming to Facebook Messenger in the weeks ahead.
The news was announced at F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference, held May 1 and 2 at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.
Translations by M Suggestions is powered by the same neural network-powered translation engine Facebook uses to translate Facebook and Instagram posts and comments. Facebook’s AI now performs six billion translations a day, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat, up from 4.5 billion when Facebook moved entirely to automated translations last summer.
Also announced today: Facebook is bringing augmented reality to Messenger Platform bots, which now number more than 300,000.
In June, Facebook began to expand its reach to Spanish speakers in the U.S. and Mexico, the two nations with the largest Spanish-speaking populations in the world. The company declined to share plans for additional languages or country expansions ahead.
M Suggestions currently operate in 11 countries and are available in English, German, Spanish, French, and Thai. An expansion of M Suggestions to more Spanish-speaking nations around the world is in the cards, Messenger head of product Stan Chudnovsky told VentureBeat in an interview.
“We need to adjust a bunch of things before going there, but every country has a little slight different context and so we just need to adjust to that,” Chudnovsky said about expansion to Spanish-speaking nations.
Tests of M Suggestions began in 2016, and now includes things like letting people hail rides from apps like Uber or Lyft, formulate event plans, create polls, or share their location.
Last year at F8, Facebook began to introduce M bot suggestions, starting with Delivery.com. Since then, M has learned to suggest things like Spotify music, Food Network recipes, and Fandango movie recommendations.
In January, Facebook shut down its M concierge service, which was offered to a few thousand California residents in closed beta. In an email to members of the beta to notify them that M would continue with Suggestions but end its concierge service, Facebook said it planned to use lessons learned in the creation of M over the past few years to inform future conversational AI. One lesson, Chudnovsky said, is that it can be better to augment conversations than to leave things open-ended for people who expect an assistant to answer every single question that comes to mind.
“We did the full 180 in the sense that M was you can ask anything at any given time, [while] M Suggestions is when M knows what you want,” Chudnovsky said. “What we probably learned is that instead of trying to be everything to a small group of people, we want to be a smaller subset of things for everybody and increase that subset of things and eventually it will take care of more and more intents as we go forward.”
Reports by multiple news outlets said Facebook planned to release a video chat device at F8 this year named Portal, but those plans were reportedly delayed in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that involved more than 80 million Facebook users.